Opening keynote at Techtonic - The National Summit on Artificial Intelligence

Old Parliament House Canberra

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I’m so thrilled to be here to officially open Techtonic – the inaugural national summit on artificial intelligence.

I saw the need for an event like this to bring together key AI stakeholders from around the country, as we look to build a strong AI ecosystem in Australia, and maximise the benefits of AI for all Australians.

We really have brought together some of the best AI minds as we today focus on Shaping Australia’s AI Future.

This is a vital conversation for us to be having as a nation. Most of you in this room see the almost limitless potential for AI.

But for many Australians, they’re unconvinced. They’re concerned about their jobs. About their futures and the futures of their children.

I can understand why AI is a source of mystery and anxiety for many Australians.

AI is new, it’s moving at pace and it’s complex. And there are lots of unknowns.

It’s difficult for many people to see how they fit in, in an AI future.

That’s why it’s so important we come together to map out what AI will look like in Australia.

In terms of jobs, there’s no doubt the way we work will change, as it has for centuries.

But AI will mean more jobs, not less.

AI may change what work looks like, but it will create jobs, not destroy them.

In fact, we know AI is going to be crucial in ensuring the Government meets its target of creating 1.25 million jobs by 2024.

But the effects of AI will be felt beyond the job market.

AI will support, enable and augment the human experience – not replace or destroy the things we value.

As you will see and hear later this morning via our showcase presenters, AI has the potential to help us in every aspect of our lives – at work and at play.

For example, AI will help people on their daily commute by monitoring and adapting traffic flow to make the trip to work and back home faster and safer.

AI could also help reduce the more than 1,100 deaths a year on Australian roads with developments in autonomous emergency braking, combined with forward warning collision systems.

We also know that AI will help Australians on the land.

Farmers can use agricultural robots to identify and remove invasive weeds and apply fertilisers to crops. This will produce bigger yields, which will create more jobs.

AI will improve our health and ensure patients get specialist care in a timely manner.

Already, AI can earlier detect skin cancer from images at a low cost, which can help improve survival rates for patients.

Patients’ rehabilitation can be monitored using AI-enabled diagnostic tests over video 1000 kilometres away, without having to travel enormous distances.

Smart devices integrated with AI allow clinicians to monitor early-stage heart disease and predict when critical situations may occur, saving countless lives.

AI is going to make our workplaces safer.

Through the use of AI-powered autonomous systems, mining and energy companies are use self-controlling machines to access harsh environments where humans can’t–or shouldn’t–go.

This equipment helps workers stay out of the danger zone and ensure they come home to their loved ones.

These are just a few examples. There are countless others.

But I don’t need to tell you that.

You are all here because you have all embraced AI and all the opportunities that come with it.

Our challenge is getting all Australians to embrace AI, transforming the anxiety and uncertainty into excitement and anticipation.

And this means preparing the economy and community, so we can adapt and transform to maximise the gains that AI will bring.

It’s a challenge the Government is tackling with a number of measures.

We are determined to create an environment where AI helps the Australian economy and society thrive.

This morning I have released the Government’s AI Roadmap.

Developed by CSIRO’s Dat61, the roadmap informs the Government’s approach to AI in Australia.

The roadmap lays out the path for how AI can boost the productivity of Australian industry.

It also suggests some areas of focus to advance the development and adoption of AI technologies in Australia including skills, infrastructure, research, regulation and data governance.

Significantly, the report identifies three possible AI specialisations for Australia.

These are based on our existing strengths and capabilities, and opportunities to solve problems and export AI-driven solutions.

These areas are:

  • Better health, aged care and disability service – using AI to reduce healthcare costs, improve wellbeing and make quality aged care accessible for all Australians.
  • Better towns, cities and infrastructure – using AI to improve the safety, efficiency, cost-effectiveness and quality of the built environment.
  • Better natural resource management – using AI to enhance our natural resource management, reduce the costs and improve the productivity of agriculture, fisheries, forestry and environmental management.

This afternoon, there will be an opportunity to discuss the roadmap and I look forward to the feedback.

The AI Roadmap complements the AI Ethics Framework, which I launched last week.

The Ethics Framework means that businesses developing or adopting artificial intelligence technologies right now can use eight key principles to guide their work.

They are: 

  • Human, social and environmental wellbeing
  • Human-centred values
  • Fairness
  • Privacy protection and security
  • Reliability and safety
  • Transparency and explainability
  • Contestability
  • Accountability

The principles encourage organisations to strive for the best outcomes for Australia, and to practice the highest standards of ethical business and good governance.

This will help build trust in Australians that AI systems are safe, secure and reliable.

We will continue to work with experts and the community to explore the role of AI in Australia’s future, and build guidance material to support AI development and adoption.

Speaking of working with experts and the community, we want to know your thoughts on how AI can be used to shape a positive future.

After all, when you assemble some of the best AI minds in one room, like we have today, you don’t waste the opportunity.

Everyone participating in Techtonic is going to get the chance to provide their insights and views.

During today’s policy group sessions, you will be asked to think about issues such as AI adoption, development, skills and applications.

The aim is to harness your expertise and knowledge to come up with ideas and strategies on how government, industry, business, academia and other stakeholders can maximise the benefits of AI for the benefit of all Australians.

Your thoughts and ideas will help play a crucial role in shaping the direction of the Government’s ongoing work on AI.

I’m really looking forward to seeing what you come up with.

Today you’ll also have the chance to visit our exhibition, which has a range of amazing examples on how AI can benefit our lives.

These include:

  • Driver Monitoring Systems—this technology, developed by local business Seeing Machines, detects and manages drowsiness, distraction and the driver’s cognitive state, improving driver safety.
  • Spark— an open framework for fire prediction and analysis developed by CSIRO’s Data 61. This can allow for better preparation for emergency situations and make communities safer. This is particularly relevant giving the tragic events of the past week or so.
  • Robots to support children with autism—CSIRO is trialling four different social robots as tools to support therapy and education for children with autism.

So thank you for joining us here at Techtonic.

It’s the first national event of its kind but, given the importance of the topic, I have no doubt it will be the first of many.

I encourage you to work positively, in the spirit of collaboration and with a view to do exactly what this event suggests in its title … Shape Australia’s AI Future.

Thank you.